Basic Pad Thai is a simple noodle dish, where wide rice noodles are mixed with eggs and chopped peanuts, then sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes, lime juice and chopped scallions (green onions) and sometimes fresh cilantro. The whole dish comes together in five to ten minutes and can be eaten as is, or customized with a range of toppings so it is definitely a very popular dish found in every Thai restaurant.
Although it is relatively straightforward to find the right type of rice noodles that are typically used in Pad Thai, I decided to explore whether spaghetti squash would work. Spaghetti squash is a squash that, as the name suggests, has a stringy flesh structure that can be forked into a noodle-like structures. The texture of these noodles is softer than the regular pasta, and they are usually shorter but the flavor is rich and delicious, and the nutritional facts are definitely on the side of the squash when compared to either rice noodles that one would use in Pad Thai or any other pasta.
One down side to using spaghetti squash in a recipe like Pad Thai is that squash needs to be roasted first, which means that a five to ten minute recipe all of a sudden becomes a sixty to ninety minute recipe. Still, I recommend you give it a try especially as the hands on time is not as intense.
Are there any tricks to spaghetti squash? No, not really. The only two tips that are worth mentioning is to roast the squash cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and to let the roasted squash cool as it will help with handling the squash as well help the squash noodles come out better defined.
To make this into vegan Pad Thai, I recommend using extra firm tofu instead of eggs. You don’t need to press it, but do let it drain for just a bit. Otherwise it may make your Pad Thai too mushy.
One final modification to the traditional Pad Thai recipe I made is using peanut butter in the sauce and some chopped cashews for the topping. Reason for this? I ran out of peanuts!
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
What you’ll need:
1 medium spaghetti squash, 1 to 1.5 lbs (about 500 to 700 g)
2 tablespoons garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
14 oz. (400 g) extra firm tofu
7 scallions (green onions), finely sliced
1/3 cup cashews, chopped
What you’ll do:
- Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C).
- Wash the spaghetti squash, wipe dry and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to clean out the seeds.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place spaghetti squash on the parchment paper, cut side down. Place in the oven and let roast for 25 to 30 minutes. Check with a knife and it goes in without resistance your squash is done. Take it our of the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Be patient because the squash needs to be cool to handle.
- Once cool, take half of the squash, flip over and using a large fork go in and pull the flesh to make the “spaghetti”.
- Spray the bottom of a large pan or wok with cooking spray and place it over medium-high heat. Add garlic and let the garlic aroma develop, which will take about 1-2 minutes.
- Add soy sauce and peanut butter. Stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add spaghetti squash and mix with the sauce. Here, I recommend using a pair of tongs to gently fold the squash into the sauce. Once the two are well incorporated add tofu that you have crumbled to small bits that look like scrambled eggs.
- Mix everything well together and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
- Turn the heat off, add the lime juice, scallions and cashews.
- If you like to add some heat you can use crushed red pepper flakes, or a dash of sriracha sauce. You can also top with fresh cilantro for some added freshness.
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